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Scholarly Research

Scholarly Research

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify the key characteristics of a scholarly research publication.

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Source: Journal; Public Domain

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Hello, class.

Today we're going to talk about what goes into the actual publication of scholarly research. If you recall, in the process, after we're finished with the experimentation and we've found our results, the next step is to publish those results, so that other scientists can review them to see if they measure what they're supposed to.

What makes scientific research writing and articles different from traditional ones? Things like in magazines, that we might normally read. Well, there are certain elements of the process of publication, as well as the structure of the papers, that make them different from normal magazine articles.

Scholarly sources are any kinds of academic writing, particularly scientific or psychological articles, which are published in academic journals, to report new research and findings. These are special publications. In psychology, they include journals like the American Journal of Psychology, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, or the Psychological Review. Any area of psychology has at least one, but usually more than one, journal dedicated specifically to that area of psychology.

How these journal articles are written can differ from those normal magazine articles, as well. And we'll look at three elements of those.

First, the style of an academic research article tends to be very direct. It's less descriptive then a lot of other magazines, like Time or Newsweek. This is why a lot of times, academic writing is accused of being very dry. But remember, the purpose of academic writing is to be scientific. To be descriptive in a way that people can replicate later on, or understand the methods in the best possible way. So this kind of writing style prevents any kinds of error or misinterpretations by the audience. Although it can oftentimes use words that are very specific to its area, and can be somewhat difficult to understand from a lay person's point of view.

Secondly, research journal articles use citations, since a lot of the research that's being done builds on the work of other people, expanding that greater body of knowledge about whatever subject their researching. So academic papers often refer to previous articles, especially in their introduction. So they must provide references, or citations, as we call them, to those previous works. And there are specific formats that guide how those citations should be done. Things like APA format, or MLA format, to make sure that people are recognized for their previous work.

Finally. Academic research journals are peer reviewed, which is a process in which new research or articles must first be read and examined by other experts within the field, before they can be published.

So after I do my research, I would write my article and submit it to a journal. Let's say the American Journal of Psychology, who would then give it over to a group of expert psychologists, who would look it over for any kind of errors or mistakes in the writing, and also in the research, that I've done. And it's going to be different for different journals. So their processes are specific to the subject areas, as well as the specific journals themselves.

The purpose of this is to maintain academic standards, and the credibility of the journal itself. Because remember, their reputation is at stake in the scientific community. So they want to make sure that the research is being done in the correct way. And it also keeps the research scientific, so it doesn't go too far off the beaten path.

Outside of the actual process of publishing a research article, there are specific structures within the papers themselves. This is to make sure that the process of writing and recording our research is followed in the right way. Remember, this is a scientific article, specifically, that we're talking about right now. So certain key parts need to be included.

As an example, let's say that we're writing a paper on the effects of soda on children. That's what we're going to use to look at each of these parts.

The first section is the abstract. An abstract is a special structure. It's unique to scholarly research articles. Essentially what it is, is a short summary, generally about one paragraph long, that tells essentially what the entire article is all about. So it includes things like what is being studied in the article, what are the different variables that they're looking at, what are the methods that they use, and the general conclusions that they come to as a result of their research.

So in our example-- the study of soda and its effects on kids-- it would talk about exactly that. Saying what the variables are. Soda, and the effect on children. Using the experiments, and then saying that it caused certain problems. This is generally displayed at the very beginning. If you access a scholarly research article online, this is usually the first thing you see, even if you can't necessarily view the entire article. So it's a good place to start.

Secondly, in a research article, we have an introduction, which is, of course, at the beginning of an article. But usually, in a research article, it provides some kind of background information on the topic being researched. So this is where those citations come into play, where they talk about what's come before this article, and different things that might have been researched, but not necessarily in the way that the experimenter or the researcher has done.

For example, in our article, we might talk about previous research on sugar's effects on children, as well as caffeine's effects on children, but not both of them together, because that's what's unique to our study. Soda and its effect on children.

Third, we have the methods section, which is an explanation on how the research was conducted. It includes things like who or what was being researched, the kinds of people that they used within the experiment, what was being used to analyze them, what kind of measures they used, tests, things like that. And what were the conditions of the research. Remember the purpose of this is to make sure that this experiment is replicable, so people can do it again and get, essentially, the same results.

So in our example, we might say that the kids were broken into two different groups. One group was given colored water that looked like soda. The other one was given actual soda. And then they were tested in various ways. They were given tests, like spatial tests, where they had to do things with manipulatives, or with their hands. They had IQ tests, to see how smart they were, as well as emotional tests. These are the kinds of things that they would say in the methods section.

Next we have our analysis section, which is where the researcher reports the findings and the data from the actual experiments themselves. The researcher looks at the data and explains, in very specific details, what they found.

For example, we might say that we found the kids who were drinking soda performed worse on some of the tests-- let's say on the emotional tests, and on the spatial tests-- but, in other tests they didn't necessarily see any changes. Maybe the IQ test.

Finally, we've got our discussion or conclusion sections. They can come in different names. But this is the section at the end of the article where the researcher relates the data that they found in the methods and analysis section, back to the previous research, and say what exactly they found that was new or interesting. So this is where they generalize it, and explain exactly what the results say about human behavior as a whole.

For example, in our experiment, we might explain how soda can affect the development of children as they grow up, so a recommendation might be not to give your kid soda, when they're young especially.

These are the basic elements of a research article.

Terms to Know

A special section in scholarly articles that provides a short summary of the entire article, including what variables are being studied, the methods, and the general conclusions.

Peer Review

Review of the article prior to publication by accepted experts in the field.